Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Furneaux, Tobias

FURNEAUX, TOBIAS (1735–1781), circumnavigator, was born at Swilly, near Plymouth, 21 Aug. 1735. Various letters show him to have been employed on the French coast, coast of Africa, and West India stations during war-time in 1760-1763, on board H.M.S. Edinburgh, Melampe, and Ferret. He was second lieutenant of H.M.S. Dolphin, Captain Samuel Wallis, in his voyage of discovery round the world (19 Aug. 1766-20 May 1768). He became commander in November 1771, and was soon afterwards appointed to command H.M.S. Adventure in company with Captain Cook's ship the Resolution in his second voyage. The Adventure was twice separated from the Resolution, and Furneaux s account of events during those periods is given in two chapters in Cook's narrative (vol. i. ch. vii., vol. ii. ch. viii.)

During the first separation (8 Feb.-19 May 1773) he sailed fourteen hundred leagues alone, and explored in great part the south and east coast of Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land, which had been wholly unvisited since its first discovery by Tasman in 1642. The chart sketched by him (page 115) appears to be the first of that coast on record, and the names given by him to localities, as Mewstone, Swilly, Storm Bay, Fluted Head, Adventure Bay, Bay of Fires, Eddystone Point, are retained in most cases in modern maps. Cook, who himself visited the same coast on his third voyage, confirms in his narrative (i. 103-4) the substantial accuracy of Furneaux's survey except in one point, and named after him the islands discovered by him in what was then thought to be a deep bay, but is now known as Banks Strait, opening into Bass Strait.

Cook also gave the name of Furneaux to one of the groups of coral islets in what is now known as the Low Archipelago, visited, by the two ships together, and named another group after the Adventure. The ships again became separated off the coast of New Zealand 22 Oct. 1773, and Furneaux, after cruising about some time in a vain endeavour to rejoin the Resolution, was ultimately obliged to return home alone, and reached Spithead 14 July 1774. The chief event occurring during this separation was the loss of a boat's crew commanded by Mr. Rowe, midshipman, with nine others, who were all killed and eaten by the natives in a cove of Queen Charlotte's Sound, New Zealand. During the whole voyage Furneaux made many attempts, some of which had permanent success, to introduce into the islands domestic animals and useful vegetables, especially potatoes. It is also noteworthy that he brought home in the Adventure, Omai, a native of Ulaietea, who remained in England for two years, and was taken back in Cook's third voyage. Omai, as the first South Sea islander who had ever been seen in England, attracted much attention.

Furneaux was made captain 10 Aug. 1775, and in that rank commanded the Syren (28) in Sir P. Parker's attack on New Orleans 28 June 1777. He died at Swilly 19 Sept. 1781, aged 46. Portraits of him by Northcote are preserved in the family.

[Hawkesworth's Narrative of Wallis's Voyage; Cook's Narrative of his Second Voyage; family papers.]

H. F.